“No Offense” Is No Defense

How many times have you been told you shouldn’t take offense at something that offended you because the offender “meant no offense”? For most people, it’s a lot of times.

Most women have been expected to chuckle at jokes at the expense of Woman Drivers or Dumb Blondes or Mothers-In-Law, or to laugh off suggestive remarks, or to accept other people’s “right” to judge our appearance.

Most lawyers have had to learn to tell Lawyer jokes.

Most people of identifiable ethnic extractions (including red-heads who “must” be Irish!) have been singled out with jokes, comments, insensitive questions, and insults, sometimes directed toward groups to which they don’t even belong and aren’t remotely associated with.

Yeah, it goes beyond jokes.

I was musing about this the other morning, and I realized I’ve been harassed all my life; we just didn’t call it that. I can remember being taught, “You’d better get used to it, because you’ll be dealing with it all your life.” I remember being taught, “That’s just how they are. Just let it roll off your back.” I remember, “Nobody can hurt your feelings unless you let them.” And, “Just don’t respond.” And, “It’s just an invitation; nobody says you have to accept it.” And, “If you ain’t in business, don’t hang out your shingle.”

But folks today aren’t buying that. People of all genders, colors, faiths, non-faiths, politics, Whatevers are starting to speak up, speak out, go public. There’s pushback from offenders and their allies, but that just makes it all the more public, and it’s being talked about, written about, tweeted about, DISCUSSED.

Highly respected science fiction author John Scalzi announced that he wouldn’t participate in any conventions that didn’t have and enforce a harassment policy. He followed up with more on the subject, well worth the time to read. The excellent writer/publisher Steven Saus, who rocked Context’s programming last year, has resigned due to what, in his opinion and the opinions of others on the ConComm, was a failure in properly implementing Context’s harassment policy. The recipient of the original insult is neither thin-skinned nor vindictive, and the problem seems less about what happened than about how it was handled.

More and more, I’m happy to be part of Imaginarium Convention, which has a thorough though brief policy that I’m secure will be enforced.no offenseFor too many years — for damn near all the years — people of the dominant culture have been so unconscious as to our power, we feel entitled to abuse it without thinking. We’ve never had to watch our actions and speech out of consideration for other people’s feelings and respect for other people’s dignity.

I say “we” because I’ve probably been as clueless as anybody else.

But you know what clueless people can do? We can get a clue.

A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Imagine (if you’re part of the dominant culture where you are) that you aren’t.

P.S. — Oh, yeah, I have a new Hot Flash up on my Hot Flashes page.



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on ““No Offense” Is No Defense

  1. Andi-Roo

    December 1, 2014 at 12:22pm

    Good news, though! Steven Sauc reports via his blog {http://ideatrash.net/2014/12/a-short-but-significant-update-about.html} that the Context board disbanded itself and the people taking over were not the ones fighting against enforcing the harassment policy. Looks like good things are afoot regarding Context 28! Hope we run into each other there next year!

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      December 1, 2014 at 12:33pm

      Me, too, Andi-Roo! And here I thought I was gonna get out of a road trip. Then people go and cross me up by doing the right thing. ~sigh~

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